When the province announces the next phase of its pandemic reopening plan, it should give priority to fully vaccinated people when easing restrictions.
Doing so would serve two purposes: allow for the safe reopening of some indoor places and provide a powerful incentive for people to get immunized. Both are critical objectives at this point in the pandemic.
It’s been two weeks — a full incubation period — since Manitoba eased public-health restrictions under the province’s summer reopening plan. As expected, the modest changes did not reverse the trend of declining COVID-19 case numbers or hospitalizations. The combination of strict measures and growing vaccination rates drove down infections and hospital admissions.
It has been a month since a COVID-19 patient was airlifted out of the province for treatment.
The province needs to do two things: boost immunization take–up and prevent unvaccinated people from spreading their droplets, particularly indoors, where the virus is more easily transmitted.
For that reason, the province says it plans to ease restrictions earlier than planned, likely next week. That’s good news.
The biggest challenge now is getting vaccination rates to a level that will allow the economy to reopen permanently. There’s no point lifting restrictions if they have to be reinstated again. Doing so would just mean more avoidable illness and death.
That is a real possibility if too many unvaccinated people are allowed to congregate, especially with the more contagious delta variant in circulation.
The province needs to do two things: boost immunization take-up and prevent unvaccinated people from spreading their droplets, particularly indoors, where the virus is more easily transmitted.
What better way to do that than to give priority to fully immunized people when lifting restrictions?
Manitoba’s vaccination rates over the past month have been stellar. However, the fact remains that this province — and the rest of Canada — are still below levels most experts say need to be reached to return to normal life.
Almost 76 per cent of Manitobans over the age of 12 have at least one dose of the vaccine and 55 per cent have two. The take-up for Manitobans over age 60 is even better: more than 90 per cent have received at least one dose and more than 80 per cent of them have a second. People over 60, the highest risk group, are well protected.
But those under 40 still have a long way to go. Only two-thirds of people in their 20s and 30s have at least one dose. Of those who do, fewer than two-thirds have a second. That leaves a lot of young people unprotected.
The province could allow indoor household visits for people with two shots. That might be difficult to enforce, but it would be similar to challenges around previous household–visit rules.
Only 47 per cent of Manitobans aged 10 to 19 have at least one dose (that’s how the province presents that age cohort, even though the vaccines aren’t available to children under the age of 12 at this point) and 39 per cent of them are fully immunized. Younger people are at a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19, but they can still spread the virus.
Most experts say well over 80 per cent of people age 12 and up require both shots for life to return to normal. The real number is probably closer to 85 or 90 per cent.
The problem is, the rate at which Manitobans are getting vaccinated has slowed over the past week. The percentage of people with at least one dose is growing by only a quarter of a percentage point a day. Even the take-up for second doses has dropped off in July. It needs a kick-start.
Giving fully immunized Manitobans more freedoms may be the best way to do that. The province could allow indoor household visits for people with two shots. That might be difficult to enforce, but it would be similar to challenges around previous household-visit rules.
The province could reopen places such as movie theatres, museums, art galleries and casinos to fully vaccinated people. Those rules already apply in some settings, including large-scale sporting events and indoor dining where people don’t reside together. Expanding it would allow businesses and not-for-profits to reopen safely, while encouraging more people to get vaccinated. It would kill two birds with one stone.
The longer it takes to fully immunize more than 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans, the greater the risk of a significant fourth wave.
The province should use every carrot and stick it has to avoid that.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.
COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 200 new cases and over 1000 active cases; Fraser Health shifts to vaccine hubs; and more – The Georgia Straight
Today’s total and new case numbers are provisional but they are concerning.
Both new and active cases continue to rise and hit new highs in recent weeks, with the bulk of both of them still in Interior Health—which continues to have more new and active cases than both Fraser and Vancovuer Coastal Health combined.
Meanwhile, like the last heat wave, some immunization clinics may be affected by the high temperatures and at least one is already being relocated.
According to the B.C. Health Ministry, the following numbers for total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.
For now, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 204 new COVID-19 cases today.
Currently, there are 1,055 active cases, which is an increase of 146 cases since yesterday.
The new and active cases include:
- 107 new cases in Interior Health, with 600 total active cases (an increase of 97 cases since yesterday);
- 58 new cases in Fraser Health, with 241 total active cases (33 more cases than yesterday);
- 23 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 139 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- 14 new cases in Island Health, with 51 total active cases (10 more cases than yesterday);
- two new cases in Northern Health, with 19 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- no new cases of people from outside of Canada, with five total active cases (same number as yesterday).
At the moment, 51 individuals are in hospital (four more people than yesterday), and 20 of those patients are in intensive care units (same number as yesterday).
Thankfully, no new COVID-19-related deaths have been reported, which leaves the overall total at 1,771 people who have died during the pandemic.
With 54 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 146,810 people have now recovered.
During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 149,648 cases.
The forecast heat wave may cause some clinics to be relocated again, as they were during the previous heat wave in June.
In preparation for the expected high temperatures this weekend, Island Health announced today that it will move the Eagle Ridge immunization clinic to the air-conditioned Victoria Conference Centre (720 Douglas Street, Victoria) tomorrow (July 30).
Also tomorrow, Island Health will hold a pop-up clinic from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium (1089 Langford Parkway) in Langford, during the game between Victoria’s Pacific FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC.
Meanwhile, Fraser Health announced today that it has now administered over two million vaccine doses—80 percent of eligible people in the region have received at least one dose, and over 60 percent have received their second dose.
Consequently, as of tomorrow (July 29), Fraser Health is transitioning from a network of immunization clinics to establishing four main hubs at existing clinics at:
- Ag-Rec Centre (32470 Haida Drive) in Abbotsford (for both COVID-19 testing and immunizations);
- Poirier Forum (618 Poirier Street) in Coqutilam;
- Guildford Rec Centre (15105 105th Avenue) in Surrey;
- North Delta Rec Centre (11415 84th Avenue) in Delta.
Immunization will also continue to be available at COVID-19 testing and immunization centres in Hope, Chilliwack, Mission, Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Surrey 66, Coquitlam, and Burnaby. In addition, Fraser Health will continue to hold pop-up and mobile clinics, outreach clinics, and community initiatives (such as beachside clinics) to ensure easy access to immunizations.
The following clinics, however, will be closed on the dates listed below:
- July 28: South Surrey Rec Centre and Chuck Bailey Rec Centre;
- August 1: Abbotsford test collection centre at the University of the Fraser Valley will close and testing will relocate to Abbotsford Ag Rec;
- August 7: Agassiz Agricultural Hall, Langley Events Centre, Anvil Centre, and Christine Sinclair Community Centre;
- August 14: Chilliwack Mall, Hope Legion, Cloverdale Rec Centre, Surrey North, and Haney Place Mall;
- August 30: Mamele’awt Community Indigenous Centre, Stó:lō Service Agency, Fraser River Indigenous Society, Mission Friendship Centre, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
As part of its effort to increase vaccinations amid the recently declared outbreak in the Central Okanagan, Interior Health will hold pop-up immunization clinics from 3 to 7 p.m. from Friday (July 30) to Wednesday (August 4) at the Kelowna Yacht Club (1370 Water Street) in Kelowna, and vaccinations are available for eligible drop-in visitors.
In the ongoing provincial immunization program so far, B.C. has administered 6,732,309 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
As of today, 81 percent (3,753,057) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 64.1 percent (2,971,793) have received their second dose.
In addition, 81.9 percent (3,543,503) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 66.8 percent (2,890,948) have received their second dose.
None of the five regional health authorities declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, or listed any new business closures or public exposure events.
Currently, there are two active healthcare outbreaks, both in longterm care facilities: Holyrood Manor (Fraser Health) and Nelson Jubilee Manor (Interior Health).
No changes expected as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Okanagan: Kelowna airport – Revelstoke Review – Revelstoke Review
With new restrictions announced specifically for the Central Okanagan today (July 28), the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) said they are not expecting any changes to their operations.
Senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz said that with the COVID-19 safety plan already in place at YLW, they don’t expect much more to change.
Elchitz also said that they’re not expecting much impact on passenger numbers because of the new restrictions.
“YLW is not anticipating a reduction in commercial scheduled flights as a result of the new provincial health guidelines specific to the Central Okanagan,” he said.
“YLW currently has a mandatory mask policy in place for all areas of the Air Terminal Building and on aircrafts due to Transport Canada requirements.”
Individual passenger temperature is also checked just before they go through security as an added safety measure.
Earlier in the afternoon on July 28, the province announced that masks will be mandatory again in indoor public spaces throughout the Central Okanagan, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.
The province is also discouraging non-essential travel to and from the Central Okanagan, especially for those who are not vaccinated or who don’t have both doses yet.
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’ – Global News
The mayor of Calgary says it’s the “height of insanity” that Alberta is moving ahead with removing almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders, even as cases climb in the province.
Alberta has ended isolation requirements for close contacts of people who test positive and contact tracers will no longer notify them of their exposure. The province has also ended asymptomatic testing.
Further measures are to be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive will no longer be required to isolate. Isolation hotels will close as quarantine supports end.
“It is inconceivable to me. It is the height of insanity to say we don’t even know what’s happening,” Nenshi said Thursday.
“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk. To stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first _ if not the first — jurisdictions in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”
Majority of Canadians worried about lingering COVID-19 threat, according to poll
Naheed Nenshi, who was making an announcement at the Calgary airport, said if he were in another jurisdiction he would be thinking hard whether to put travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16.
“I’m aware of no science that backs this up. It is clear for the last month or so on this file (that) our government has been grasping and struggling, just trying to get some good news out of something,” he said.
“To say we don’t want to know who has the coronavirus, we don’t want to track outbreaks. Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”
Nenshi said he worries that the decision to lift the health orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science at all.
“The only possible explanation here is a political one. It might be that they’ve run out of money, but you know what? Don’t spend $1.5 billion on a pipeline you know isn’t going to get built if you’re running out of money.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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